On an unseasonably warm November Sunday morning, a group of roller skaters glide through a bowl at Washington Jefferson Skatepark. The bowl is shaped like an empty swimming pool with skaters rolling up and down, at times coming to a stop, balancing on the lip, where the ground and descent meet.
Each trick is met with applause from the roller skaters, some waiting for their turn in the bowl and others taking photos and video for Instagram posts.
The park is mostly filled with skateboarders, but there’s a small group of roller skaters who typically use what these days are called quad skates, with wheels aligned two-by-two. Some also rollerblade, aka inline skate, with four wheels in a line.
As roller skating resurges in popularity in Eugene, the local group Community in Bowls Eugene is bringing together female and nonbinary skaters for occasional meet-ups at Eugene’s main skatepark. The roller skating community that can be found at skate parks or on local paved trails say that skating has been a way to improve their wellbeing and develop more confidence in everyday life.
Community in Bowls (CIB) is a global organization whose mission statement is to “spread the stoke for quad skating in skateparks.” The group’s Eugene chapter is run by four admins, several of whom go by their skating names: Camile Tanner, Sesame, Goose and Mia Buffalino.
Similar to the skaters who go to the meetups, the admins vary in background, from roller derby to ice skating to beginners.
Tanner moved to Eugene in early 2020, shortly before the pandemic. She says she bought roller skates as a way to leave her house during the early lockdown days and skated in a parking garage. She discovered the College Hill Reservoir, where she met Goose and Buffalino.
“It changed my life,” Tanner says. “They invited me into this community and started to share their skills with me, and I just really fell in love. It was such a healthy outlet, battling all of the mental health repercussions of 2020 and being able to move my body and get out of my head.”
Tanner isn’t the only one who’s found solace in roller skating.
Sesame, whose skating experience began with ice skating years ago, says quad skating with the CIB Eugene group has helped her break out of shyness. She used to show up to the skatepark at 7 am so no one would see her skating. “Skating with friends is way more fun than skating by yourself,” she says. “You just get extra hyped. Because if you land a trick that’s awesome or when you see your friends land a trick, there’s nothing like it.”
The community has helped her deal with insecurity, too, she adds. “I don’t feel the need to compare myself,” she says. “I’m just as stoked for them when they’re leveling up in their skating.”
That mutual support is a core tenet of their skating community, Goose says. Competition is often inherent in sports, she adds, but the Eugene roller skating community offers something different. “Skateparks are cis, heteromale,” she says. “It’s really powerful to have femme-presenting bodies taking space and supporting each other rather than against.”
Besides the obvious differences to skateboarding — such as being physically strapped to your wheels — roller skating’s bowl and skate park-oriented tricks are still being created. Skateboarding tricks have been developed over decades, from countless skate videos and several video games.
“We kind of have to tweak it the way our skates are set up,” Buffalino says about the difference between skateboarding and quad skating tricks. “There are tricks being created every day, and everybody has a name for certain tricks. Everything is still very new.” She adds that they watch Instagram videos to learn new tricks.
Eugene once had more roller skating businesses, including the indoor rink Skate World that closed in 2018 and Campus Skate Company that sold equipment and offered lessons but shuttered in 1999.
Buffalino says she and some roller skaters have talked about having a pop-up shop that could offer some gear and maintenance services, as well as offer skate lessons. But that’s still an idea that hasn’t been developed yet.
In the meantime, the admins of CIB Eugene want to create a welcoming environment for the roller skating community.
Tanner says that if someone is a beginning skater and wants help on the fundamentals, they can message the group. “We’ll meet you where you’re at,” she says. And the most important part about beginning to skate at a place like Washington Jefferson Skatepark, she adds, is to not be embarrassed about falling down. “Everybody falls,” she says.
That universal truth is what is liberating for Sesame. “Any negative thought that you think people are thinking about you, isn’t true,” Sesame says. “It’s like the gym where you think people are looking at you and judging you but everyone is kind of doing their own thing.”
And that’s why Goose says that’s why roller skating has had such a big impact on their personal lives. “It changes the way you go about life in the skatepark and outside,” she says. “It’s confidence you can apply to every single aspect of your life.”
For more information about meetups, find Community In Bowls Eugene on Instagram at @CIB_Eugene.